Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer caused a minor stir this week when he had the audacity of voting his team No. 2 in the USA Today Sports Coaches Poll. Regardless of the criticism, he’s right.
Clearly there is still too much football left to be played to say who will be No. 2 on Dec. 8, but here are three reasons why the Buckeyes are No. 2 right now.
Big Ten Is Better at the Top than the ACC
As weak as the Big 10 is perceived to be, it is not as bad as the ACC. This is not a knock on the Florida State. The Seminoles would likely roll through the Big Ten just as the Buckeyes would roll through the ACC. The key is projecting how the other top teams would fare against each other.
If Wisconsin and Michigan State both played Clemson and Miami, the Big Ten would win three of those four games. It might go 4-0.
The Hurricanes were riding on fumes for much of October. The humiliating 41-14 loss to the Seminoles two weeks ago just proved that the Hurricanes were not ready for prime time.
Miami’s best win, a 21-16 win over then-No. 12 Florida in Week 2, is clearly less attractive now considering the Gators' demise in the SEC. The Badgers and Spartans would easily throttle the Hurricanes.
The trickier prediction would be the games against Clemson. The Tigers might pull out one win at home, but going to East Lansing or Madison would be too much. At best, Clemson splits these games.
Anyone arguing that Florida State is a clear No. 2 is blinded by the lopsided wins over Clemson and Miami. Looking back, it is highly possible that both teams were overrated. If we’re going to be critical of Ohio State’s schedule, then Florida State’s schedule deserves some harsh judgment too.
Big Ten Is Better at the Top than the Big 12
Similar to Ohio State, Baylor is getting a raw deal. What the Bears are doing offensively is astonishing, and coach Art Briles deserves Coach of the Year consideration. The only concern with the Bears is that they play in the Big 12, which is littered with mediocre teams.
Using the same comparison as the ACC, Wisconsin and Michigan State would go a combined 3-1 if they played Oklahoma State and Texas.
The Longhorns were destroyed by BYU and Mississippi and struggled to beat Iowa State and West Virginia. The Badgers and Spartans would beat the Longhorns home or away.
The Cowboys have played well most the year against inferior competition, but their lone loss to West Virginia is difficult to ignore. Like Clemson, Oklahoma State would probably split its games with the Big Ten’s second- and third-best teams.
Baylor has proven it belongs in the discussion, and a good case can be made for the Bears to be ranked No. 2. Unfortunately, the variable being used against the Buckeyes is also a glaring problem for the Bears. Their schedule is just as weak, so the nod tilts in the Buckeyes' favor.
Florida State quarterback Jamesis Winston and Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty are earning the hype this year, but Miller is a more dangerous weapon.
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In terms of passing, Winston has an edge, but he’s played more than Miller, who missed two full games after being injured early in a third. His statistics would still be better than Miller’s even if he had played in all nine games, but not by much.
Ohio State backup quarterback Kenny Guiton threw for 643 yards and 12 touchdowns in relief, so it is fair to say that Miller would have similar numbers if he started these games.
In the running game, Miller owns Winston. Both are elusive in the pocket, but Miller’s ability to extend plays with his feet make him much more difficult to defend than Winston. He is a threat on every down to make a big play with his legs that Winston does not or cannot make.
Miller stacks up favorably against Petty too. Like Winston, Petty is not a real threat to run the ball, giving Miller a clear advantage in that department.
Maybe the most important question to ask is which quarterback would Alabama coach Nick Saban not want to face? Considering the damage that Johnny Manziel did in two games against the Crimson Tide, the obvious choice is Miller.
The bottom line is Ohio State has just as much claim to the No. 2 spot as Florida State and Baylor. Oregon had a legitimate argument, but Stanford put an end to that debate. No one knows how each team would fare against each other.
Sadly, we probably won’t find out either.
The knock against Ohio State all season has been its schedule, but the paths of the Seminoles and Bears paths are far from treacherous. All things considered, the Buckeyes should be No. 2, and Meyer should not apologize for saying so.